Driving tip: What to do in an emergency

Caution sign

Emergencies can happen at any time while you are driving. You might be driving along when, all of a sudden, your back right tire goes flat, causing you to lose control. Maybe a car cuts in front of you, leaving you with no time to react and resulting in an accident. Regardless of the cause or of the seriousness of the emergency, there are a number of things you can do to ensure the safety of yourself, other drivers, and anyone else involved. Here are 7 important things you should do in a driving-related emergency.

 

1. Resist the urge to panic

If you have ever been in an accident or lost control of your vehicle before, you know it can be an alarming and frightening thing. The problem here is that you should strive to retain control of your vehicle as much as possible. Panicking can and usually will make the situation much worse.

For example, if you are driving on the highway in heavy rain and your car starts to hydroplane and skid, moving the steering wheel in sharp motions or pressing on the gas (both of which commonly happen when people panic in this situation) could actually make the skid worse leading to a higher potential for damage and a more serious accident.

If you do start to lose control of your vehicle or are in an accident, take a deep breath and if you can try to think. Should your vehicle be in a skid or out of control, shift your car into neutral, look where you want to go and steer there, this will drastically reduce your chance of over correcting or making the wrong move due to panic.   

 

2. Make sure everyone in the vehicle is ok

Once the vehicle has come to a complete stop, make sure everyone in the car is safe. Like the airline safety message given before take-off, it is important to see to yourself before helping others. Once you deem yourself ok, take a look over the others involved to assess their mental and physical states.

If they can move under their own power or seem unhurt you can likely help them out of the vehicle. If they appear to be hurt but otherwise secure then it is usually best to leave them where they are. The reason for this is that many injuries from car accidents can affect the head, neck, and spine, injuries you usually won't be able to see and could actually make worse if you try to move the person.

 

3. Make your vehicle safe

In many accidents, this will usually be what people do after they assess the situation and the health of the passengers. How you make the vehicle safe will usually depend on a number of different variables, such as whether you are in an accident or if the car has simply broken down.

In all cases, if you can, the absolute first thing you should do is turn on your hazard/four-way lights (button with a red or white triangle). This will warn other drivers that something has happened. Next, turn the vehicle off. This is especially important if you have been in an accident where engine parts may have been damaged, or there is fluid leaking from the car.

If you have been in an accident, but the car is still driveable, it is actually better to not move the vehicle, and instead call the police (more on that below). On the other hand, if your car has broken down, it would be a good idea to move it to the side of the road before attempting any repairs (if you can).

Finally, it would also be a good idea to purchase some sort of warning material and storing them in your car. Some people will purchase mini traffic cones, while others will purchase reflective warning signs.

When you are having car troubles, or if you have been in an accident and the warning signs are accessible, it would be a good idea to put them out a fair distance (at least 30-100 meters) behind your car, or in whichever direction traffic is coming from.

Once this has been done, ensure that all people involved are on the sidewalk or side of the road, clear of all traffic.    

 

4. Call the police/emergency services

This can either be done once you, those involved and the cars are safe, or as soon as you assess your situation. In some cases, if there is a severe injury you should call emergency services as soon as possible.

If the accident is minor, or there is vehicle damage only, then it would be a good idea to make yourself and the vehicles involved safe before calling the police.

One thing to be aware of when in an accident is that it is important to not move the vehicles before talking to the police. However, as there may be a requirement for officers to investigate the scene as it is. The police will inform you when you call whether you should move the vehicles or not.

Regardless of the situation, if there is an accident you should call the police, as you will need their statement and report when filing an insurance claim.

That said, if your car has broken down and there is no damage to property or other vehicles, you will likely not need to call the police.

 

5. Call the tow-truck

Should you be in an accident, and after you have called the police, it would be a good idea to call a tow-truck to come and get your vehicle. In fact, it would actually be a good idea to ask the police when you call them whether you should call a tow-truck or not. In most cases, they will tell you when it's ok to call.

Should your car break down, it would be a good idea to call the tow-truck as soon as possible, especially if you are unable to fix it. When it comes to mechanical problems like flat tires, however, you can go ahead and try to replace the tire with a spare if you know how. If you are unsure how to, it is advisable to call a tow-truck/roadside assistance, as attempting to repair the vehicle yourself could cause more damage.

While tow-trucks are helpful in an emergency situation, towing can be expensive. Luckily, in some cases, your insurance may actually cover the towing of your vehicle. It is therefore incredibly important to read and understand your car insurance policy documents so that you know what is and isn't covered in terms of towing your vehicle.

For example, almost all third-party motor policies will not actually cover towing. Comprehensive policies will, however. Some insurers will only cover towing if the vehicle has been in an accident. This means that if it is a mechanical failure, towing might not be covered.

One other thing to look out for in regards to towing and your insurance policy is whether there is any restriction on the towing companies you can use. It’s possible that if you do not call a towing company specified by your insurer, then the insurer will not cover any towing expenses.

 

6. Assess the damage and document what you can

This is not 100% necessary in an emergency situation, especially if you are not going to be submitting an insurance claim. If you will be, however, it would be advisable to take the time to document exactly what happened leading up to and after the accident.

Take a few minutes to collect your thoughts and then write down exactly what happened. This can help ensure you get details straight in your mind.

It would also be a good idea to take photos of the damage to your vehicle, as they can be used by both the police and insurers to determine damage and validity of the claim.

 

7. Contact your insurer

Finally, it would be a good idea to contact your insurer or broker after you have been in an emergency. If it is during working hours (usually 9 am to 6:00/6:30 pm) you can usually just call the insurer right away and they will be able to tell you what you will need to do in order to submit a claim.

That said, many accidents happen after office hours; meaning you likely won't be able to contact your insurer right after an accident. If this is the case, be sure to talk to the police and get your copy of their report or copies of anything they get you to fill out. You should also get the details of any other parties involved e.g., license plate, driver's license, and insurance information.

Once you have this info, contact your insurer as soon as their office opens to start the claims process.  

If you have any questions regarding accident coverage for your car, please contact us today. Our car insurance experts can help you secure the best coverage available.